Quantcast

Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 52

Thread: Saturn vs. PlayStation tech - Question

  1. #1
    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingWCPO Agent Gryson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Posts
    983
    Rep Power
    36

    Saturn Saturn vs. PlayStation tech - Question

    It's no secret that the Saturn was more difficult to develop games for. But back in the day, there was a lot written in the media about how the Saturn was under-powered compared to the PlayStation:

    Quote Originally Posted by Next Generation magazine, August 1995 issue
    Sega knows (although it would never admit it publicly) that of the "big three" (Saturn, PlayStation, Ultra 64), Saturn is the weakest machine -- in terms of system power, at least. Hence at every opportunity, Sega has attempted to divert attention from the technical specifications of its machine and instead focus on the issue of its expertise in producing quality games.
    Is there any truth to this statement? Is there a measure of "system power" by which the PlayStation outperformed the Saturn?

    I don't know much in regards to this, but I was just reading this comparison on SegaRetro and it looks like the Saturn outperforms the PlayStation in every way.

    Gaming magazines certainly had a hard-on for the PlayStation, and there always seemed to be about 10 rumors floating around about problems with the Saturn. It's interesting to consider these rumors, where they might have been coming from, and if there was any truth in them.

    The Saturn had a serious image problem, to say the least.

  2. #2
    Hero of Algol TrekkiesUnite118's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Age
    31
    Posts
    8,105
    Rep Power
    121

    Default

    On paper, the Saturn looks better in the CPU and Memory departments. However it's very difficult to use those resources due to numerous limitations, bottlenecks, and just odd design choices.

    The real choke point though is VDP1. It's just really slow, and it has so many gotchas and limitations that make it a nightmare to deal with. There's certain things that a developer takes for granted on the N64, PS1, and just about any other 3D console that you just can't do easily on the Saturn. For example texture coordinates. On any other system you can specify what coordinates of the texture you want used for the polygon. You can't do this on the Saturn as the texture IS the polygon. So you have to work around it.

  3. #3
    The Future Is Yesterday Hedgehog-in-TrainingRaging in the Streets SegataS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    My Chair
    Posts
    3,888
    Rep Power
    48

    Default

    Didn't the Saturn use triangles instead of polygons?



    Life!? ... What console is that on?

  4. #4
    Hero of Algol TrekkiesUnite118's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Age
    31
    Posts
    8,105
    Rep Power
    121

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SegataS View Post
    Didn't the Saturn use triangles instead of polygons?
    No. Everyone else used Triangles. Sega's arcade hardware used Quads. The Saturn however doesn't even use Quads really. It instead draws sprites and distorts them. This effectively makes a quad but it's still not your typical Quad/Polygon as you still can't do things like texture coordinates, you have tons of overdraw, transparencies are a nightmare, etc.

    EDIT: This should explain it better



    Last edited by TrekkiesUnite118; 05-12-2019 at 05:21 PM.

  5. #5
    The Future Is Yesterday Hedgehog-in-TrainingRaging in the Streets SegataS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    My Chair
    Posts
    3,888
    Rep Power
    48

    Default

    Thanks for that. I figured I had it mixed up. Transparencies are one of the things people also seem to always get mixed up on. I know it was possible just not worth taking the time and effort.



    Life!? ... What console is that on?

  6. #6
    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingWCPO Agent Gryson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Posts
    983
    Rep Power
    36

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TrekkiesUnite118 View Post
    On paper, the Saturn looks better in the CPU and Memory departments. However it's very difficult to use those resources due to numerous limitations, bottlenecks, and just odd design choices.

    The real choke point though is VDP1. It's just really slow, and it has so many gotchas and limitations that make it a nightmare to deal with. There's certain things that a developer takes for granted on the N64, PS1, and just about any other 3D console that you just can't do easily on the Saturn. For example texture coordinates. On any other system you can specify what coordinates of the texture you want used for the polygon. You can't do this on the Saturn as the texture IS the polygon. So you have to work around it.
    With that in mind, would you say that the Saturn is a less powerful system than the PS1? I guess it's not clear to me where the distinction lies between "hard to develop for" and the vague "underpowered". Or maybe it's not possible to separate the two.

  7. #7
    The Future Is Yesterday Hedgehog-in-TrainingRaging in the Streets SegataS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    My Chair
    Posts
    3,888
    Rep Power
    48

    Default

    Would a lesser comparison be PS3 vs 360? PS3 on paper was boasted as more powerful in the media but games performed better on 360. PS3 was just more difficult to work with from not just the CPU but also the way PS3 broke up it's RAM.



    Life!? ... What console is that on?

  8. #8
    Hero of Algol TrekkiesUnite118's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Age
    31
    Posts
    8,105
    Rep Power
    121

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    With that in mind, would you say that the Saturn is a less powerful system than the PS1? I guess it's not clear to me where the distinction lies between "hard to develop for" and the vague "underpowered". Or maybe it's not possible to separate the two.
    It all depends on what you're trying to do. If you're trying to draw oodles of polygons with lighting and transparency effects then yes, the Saturn is weaker. If you're trying to do some kind of game that can make heavy use of VDP2 effects or a 2D Fighter that needs lots of RAM then the Saturn will do better.

  9. #9
    Hero of Algol
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    7,703
    Rep Power
    174

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    Avoid Sega Retro for systems comparisons or specs in general.

    Regarding your question, there are several key factors which lead to a significantly inferior performance of the Saturn in 3D games.

    I've been to countless discussions related to it, so I'll just cite things I remember but you'd need to check further for specific numbers and whatnot:
    • Saturn lacks an equivalent to what the GTE does for the PS1. For vector math the GTE is far more efficient and powerful than the SH2.
    • Saturn texture RAM is only 16-bits wide, so less than 50% the bandwidth of PS1 VRAM for DMA at best.
    • VDP1's rendering approach restricts the frame buffers size to be power of two. 512 wide frame buffers are used for 320/352 wide video modes and 1024 wide frame buffers for the 640/704 wide video modes.
      For the most part the frame buffer RAM will be at least 35.5% wasted.
      OTOH, the PS1 had arbitrary-sized frame buffers and far more video modes, including the 512 wide ones the Saturn should have had.
    • Saturn's RGB rendering doesn't support 8-bit textures like the PS1's; it's either 4-bit or 16-bit. The latter is usually a no-go due to VRAM size constraints; so you're left with the 4-bit option.

  10. #10
    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingWCPO Agent Gryson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Posts
    983
    Rep Power
    36

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    Avoid Sega Retro for systems comparisons or specs in general.
    Was worried that might be the case

    Regarding your question, there are several key factors which lead to a significantly inferior performance of the Saturn in 3D games.

    I've been to countless discussions related to it, so I'll just cite things I remember but you'd need to check further for specific numbers and whatnot:
    • Saturn lacks an equivalent to what the GTE does for the PS1. For vector math the GTE is far more efficient and powerful than the SH2.
    • Saturn texture RAM is only 16-bits wide, so less than 50% the bandwidth of PS1 VRAM for DMA at best.
    • VDP1's rendering approach restricts the frame buffers size to be power of two. 512 wide frame buffers are used for 320/352 wide video modes and 1024 wide frame buffers for the 640/704 wide video modes.
      For the most part the frame buffer RAM will be at least 35.5% wasted.
      OTOH, the PS1 had arbitrary-sized frame buffers and far more video modes, including the 512 wide ones the Saturn should have had.
    • Saturn's RGB rendering doesn't support 8-bit textures like the PS1's; it's either 4-bit or 16-bit. The latter is usually a no-go due to VRAM size constraints; so you're left with the 4-bit option.
    This question might not be answerable, but for those of you who are more knowledgeable about the Saturn specs, do these limitations seem to reflect bad design choices, or was it a case of "doing the best with what we have"?

  11. #11
    Outrunner
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    710
    Rep Power
    17

    Default

    The one area where the Saturn looks more powerful is running ports of Neo Geo games -- they look almost perfect on the Saturn while the PSX drops half the frames of animation (and sometimes had an odd color palette, though I'm not sure why).

    When I look at the design I think it might have made sense in 1993 or whenever they finalized the specs, they had no idea if they next generation would be 2D or 3D games so they built a system that could do both if necessary. Sony realized 3D was going to be huge so they optimized their hardware around that and it paid off.

  12. #12
    Master of Shinobi
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    1,055
    Rep Power
    28

    Default

    In pure compute power, the two systems are probably close enough, but that depends on whether you are capable of maxing out both SH2s and the SCU DSP on the Saturn. I'd say that it's unfair to call the Playstation better due to the GTE, since they had 3-4 more years to maximize performance on that (it was around that time when Sony opened the specs on it), while the Saturn did not have that amount of optimization time, having all western support killed and eastern support being mostly 2d games.
    Although in easy of use, the PSX is definitely better by a mile, it is extremely well designed to do a specific task: get as many polygons moving on the screen as efficiently as possible.

    For VDP1 details, it is pointless to make a list of deficiencies, since the one major issue is the speed. The PSX renderer was 5-6x faster. If the Saturn VDP1 was equally fast, then it could have made up for all the features it lacked, but the speed just wasn't there.

    I think the VDP1 could've been saved it they add a 256/512px mode to the VDP2, the ability to use color calculations in double density framebuffer modes on the VDP1, and a 12-bit RGB mode with 4 bits for VDP2 color/priority modes. Of course the speed still wouldn't be there, but then you would at least have a mode where more than just half of the consoles video features are available at any time.

  13. #13
    Master of Shinobi
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Posts
    1,055
    Rep Power
    28

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    This question might not be answerable, but for those of you who are more knowledgeable about the Saturn specs, do these limitations seem to reflect bad design choices, or was it a case of "doing the best with what we have"?
    The one critical error was that the VDP1 side was done by people who had no idea how to do a fast, efficient 3d rasterizer. They used a very basic, simplistic and wasteful sprite rasterizer, from an arcade hardware where it was affordable to offset the inefficiency with brute speed.

    That, and the VDP2 side was made to work with backgrounds for paletted sprites, not for free form RGB polygons. So it was almost impossible to use in a 3D setting, unless you HEAVILY limited yourself on the VDP1 side by using palettes (which meant that transparency was impossible and shading was extremely difficult).

  14. #14
    Hero of Algol
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    7,703
    Rep Power
    174

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    I'd say that it's unfair to call the Playstation better due to the GTE, since they had 3-4 more years to maximize performance on that (it was around that time when Sony opened the specs on it), while the Saturn did not have that amount of optimization time, having all western support killed and eastern support being mostly 2d games.
    I'd say it would be factually wrong and uninformative to not mention the GTE, especially since the OP was asking for proper context on to why the Saturn is considered underpowered in comparison.

    This is from June 1997:



    That's just 2 years after the US launch.


    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    For VDP1 details, it is pointless to make a list of deficiencies, since the one major issue is the speed. The PSX renderer was 5-6x faster. If the Saturn VDP1 was equally fast, then it could have made up for all the features it lacked, but the speed just wasn't there.
    I agree but if you don't cite specifics you're even more likely to be insulted and tagged as Sony fanboy.
    It usually doesn't take long to have people saying stuff like "5-6x faster???? Pfffff. Prove it!" and it usually goes downhill from there.
    I just tried to avoid the same endless loops I've seen before.
    Last edited by Barone; 05-12-2019 at 09:56 PM.

  15. #15
    Hero of Algol
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    7,703
    Rep Power
    174

    Default

    @Gryson
    I think this is also relevant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    The SCSP is a 68000, a DSP, and associated control logic in one chip. The control logic could be set as plain PCM channels, or linked together for FM synthesis. There is no compression supported, except via software decompression by the 68000, or by the SH2 as the data is copied into sound ram.

    I think the lack of hardware compression support is what made the Saturn sound for games worse than other consoles for the same game - you NEEDED compression to get all the sounds into sound ram, but then you were stuck doing poor ADPCM with the 68000 on a limited number of channels on the Saturn. By comparison, all 24 channels in the SPU of the PSX automatically handled Sony's XA ADPCM format in hardware. In fact, it's the ONLY format the SPU used for samples stored in the sound ram - you couldn't play uncompressed audio. So if uncompressed samples COULD fit in the sound ram, the Saturn would have sounded better since it plays uncompressed samples, while the PSX doesn't.

    The DSP was for effects like reverb or echo or QSound. It was not general-purpose enough for decoding compressed samples.
    Quote Originally Posted by zyrobs View Post
    Technically, the SCSP is the synth chip on its own (which houses a DSP). It is controlled by a 68k, and it has 512k RAM, which is also used for 68k code, DSP code, etc.

    You can, however, control the SCSP from the SH2. One of the Lobotomy games did that, either Exhumed or Duke Nukem. Most games using ADPCM or ADX audio did that too, decoded the streams with SH2 + SCU DSP, and sent it decompressed to the 68k/SCSP. I don't know if the SCU DSP could control it, though. That would be something really stupid to do.

    The only problem with the Saturn audio hardware was the lack of memory, which prevented the use of high quality samples. The lack of hardware compression exacerbated the problem.

    For FM functions, very few games used them because the SCSP was, in practice, a Yamaha keyboard. The dev tools worked in a similar fashion. The musicians played tunes in their keyboards, recorded them as MIDI, then uploaded it to the Saturn with their own sample banks. Maybe set some DSP effects (reverb, echo, etc) to make it sound cooler. But, most games didn't even do that, they just streamed audio either from the CD, or from the data track as prerecorded PCM, ADPCM, ADX, etc... which allowed for more sample space for sound effects, anyway - and that was more important in many cases. FM was seldom used, and mostly just for small menu jingles or the odd pitch bend effect. I think the title that used FM the most was Game Basic, but even that mixed in a lot of pre-defined PCM samples.

    The Model 2/3 bypassed the low memory problem by having two complete 68k+SCSP+RAM setups on them. That gave double the channels and double the sample space. Sometimes they, too, just played streaming ADPCM though, and so did the ST-V.

    The Dreamcast AICA was effectively a SCSP with double the channel count and no FM functions, with more RAM, and controlled by a much faster ARM cpu that could handle decompression on its own.
    Quote Originally Posted by Chilly Willy View Post
    The SPU decompresses the samples in the PS1/PS2. The difference is the PS1 allows 24 channels of compressed sound all playing at the same time, and the Saturn maybe 4 channels of compressed sound playing at the same time. If you want to use those 32 channels, most of them MUST be uncompressed samples.

    And the reason it matters is the PS1 and Saturn both have 512KB of sound ram, but the PS1 sound ram is equivalent to 2MB of sound ram due to the compression. So the common problem on the Saturn is getting that 4:1 compression, and the most common method is to switch from 16-bit to 8-bit samples (for 2:1) and from 44100 to 22050 Hz sample rates (another 2:1 for a total of 4:1). And that's why many Saturn ports don't sound as good as the PS1 port.
    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    "Kikizo: What was working with the Saturn like? It's notorious for being a difficult system.

    Koshiro: Oh, of course. We made Vatlva and Thor for the system. Vatlva was CD redbook audio, but Thor... it was a lot more difficult. The sound in the game is orchestral, and the sound memory was also limited to 512KB. It's bigger than that of the SFC, but for orchestral-style music, its limitations are very strict. It's tough to fit all of the orchestral instrument samples you need into that space. You didn't need the sort of programming skills you did for the SFC and Megadrive, though - you just used a MIDI input sequencer. I used a Mac program called Vision for Thor's sound. Still, the memory limitation was the biggest issue to work around.

    Kikizo: The PlayStation was much easier, right?

    Koshiro: Yes, it was much better. The memory size for sound was the same, but the compression algorithms were much better than the Saturn. It used the same compression system as their minidiscs did at the time. It allowed us to fit more and better quality music and sound into smaller space."
    http://archive.videogamesdaily.com/f...v_oct05_p2.asp

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •